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  • News

    Coastal waters were an oxygen oasis 2.3 billion years ago

    Earth was momentarily ripe for the evolution of animals hundreds of millions of years before they first appeared, researchers propose.

    Chemical clues in ancient rocks suggest that 2.32 billion to 2.1 billion years ago, shallow coastal waters held enough oxygen to support oxygen-hungry life-forms including some animals, researchers report the week of January 16 in the Proceedings of the...

    01/17/2017 - 16:23 Earth, Evolution, Paleontology
  • Editor's Note

    Mapping the future of continents and batteries

    The Earth is always moving beneath our feet. What seems permanent, still and solid is in fact constantly creeping. It’s easy to forget that as we race through our busy days, measuring time with digital clocks rather than the achingly slow beat of rock.

    In "Evidence falls into place for once and future supercontinents", contributing correspondent Alexandra Witze explores the long-term...

    01/11/2017 - 12:18 Earth, Technology, Science & Society
  • Feature

    Evidence falls into place for once and future supercontinents

    Look at any map of the Atlantic Ocean, and you might feel the urge to slide South America and Africa together. The two continents just beg to nestle next to each other, with Brazil’s bulge locking into West Africa’s dimple. That visible clue, along with several others, prompted Alfred Wegener to propose over a century ago that the continents had once been joined in a single enormous landmass....

    01/11/2017 - 08:38 Earth
  • Science Ticker

    Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf nears breaking point

    One of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves is nearing its breaking point, scientists warn. A colossal crack in the Larsen C ice shelf abruptly grew by 18 kilometers during the second half of December 2016, members of the Antarctic research group Project MIDAS reported January 5. The crack is now only about 20 kilometers away from reaching Larsen C’s edge and snapping off a hunk of ice the size of...

    01/09/2017 - 15:32 Earth, Climate
  • News

    ‘Waterworld’ Earth preceded late rise of continents, scientist proposes

    SAN FRANCISCO — Earth may have been a water world for much of its history, a new proposal contends. Just like in the Kevin Costner movie, the continents would have been mostly submerged below sea level. Previous proposals have suggested that Earth’s land area has remained comparatively unchanged throughout much of geologic time.

    But geoscientist Cin-Ty Lee of Rice University in Houston...

    12/20/2016 - 07:00 Earth, Oceans, Evolution
  • News

    Data show no sign of methane boost from thawing permafrost

    SAN FRANCISCO — One climate doomsday scenario can be downgraded, new research suggests.

    Decades of atmospheric measurements from a site in northern Alaska show that rapidly rising temperatures there have not significantly increased methane emissions from the neighboring permafrost-covered landscape, researchers reported December 15 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.


    12/19/2016 - 17:04 Earth, Climate
  • News

    Megadiamonds point to metal in mantle

    Imperfections in supersized diamonds are a bummer for gem cutters but a boon for geologists. Tiny metal shards embedded inside Earth’s biggest diamonds provide direct evidence that the planet’s rocky mantle contains metallic iron and nickel, scientists report in the Dec. 16 Science.

    The presence of metal in the mantle is “something that’s been predicted in theory and experiments for a...

    12/15/2016 - 14:07 Earth
  • News

    Earth’s mantle is cooling faster than expected

    SAN FRANCISCO — Earth’s innards are cooling off surprisingly fast.

    The thickness of new volcanic crust forming on the seafloor has gotten thinner over the last 170 million years. That suggests that the underlying mantle is cooling about twice as fast as previously thought, researchers reported December 13 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.

    The rapid mantle cooling...

    12/14/2016 - 13:13 Earth
  • Feature

    Year in review: Ozone hole officially on the mend

    In a rare bright spot for global environmental news, atmospheric scientists reported in 2016 that the ozone hole that forms annually over Antarctica is beginning to heal. Their data nail the case that the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty drawn up in 1987 to limit the use of ozone-destroying chemicals, is working.

    The Antarctic ozone hole forms every Southern Hemisphere spring...

    12/14/2016 - 07:34 Earth, Climate, Pollution, Science & Society
  • News

    Fossil microbes show how some life bounced back after dino-killing impact

    SAN FRANCISCO — The first post-apocalypse tenants of ground zero of the dinosaur extinction didn’t waste much time moving in.

    Drilling into the crater left by the dino-devastating Chicxulub impact in Mexico, researchers uncovered the fossilized remains of pioneering microbes. These “disaster species” colonized the harsh waters above the crater within hundreds of years of the impact, the...

    12/13/2016 - 17:07 Earth, Microbes, Paleontology